By Phillip Howley
Farmingdale, N.Y. - You might say Drew Weaver has been dealt his share of adversity. You might say he is used to persevering. So don't be too surprised if he perseveres at Bethpage.
Weaver was a junior at Virginia Tech University on April 16, 2007 when the worst mass shooting in the modern history of the country took place on campus. He was 100 yards away from Norris Hall as the horror unfolded, as the shots rang out. He sprinted into the library and crouched behind cover for nearly four hours. When it ended, 32 people had lost their lives and the close-knit Hokie community was in shock.
“Personally, I'm kind of with everybody else who was involved,” Weaver said. “It took me a while. Being two years and a couple of months away from it now, it's not something that I think about every day.
“We've moved on. It will always be in the back of our minds, but we definitely moved on. I've developed a little better outlook on life. I'm a little more positive and have learned to appreciate smaller things in life. So things are great, but we definitely haven't forgotten those we lost in 2007.”
That same year Weaver persevered to qualify for the British Amateur. He then became the first American since 1979 to win the championship, dedicating his victory to the victims who died at his school. The performance qualified him to play in both the British Open at Carnoustie in 2007 and the 2008 Masters Tournament.
He missed the cut in both, but cherished the experiences.
“I'm a lot more relaxed," Weaver said. "I played much better at the British Open than I did at the Masters, but just going through those experiences really allows me to grow. I'm not really a guy that is on the driving range, looking left and right, and thinking, 'Oh, wow! I'm next to Tiger Woods,' or whatever.”
During U.S. Open sectional qualifying at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., Weaver shot scores of 69-70, birdieing the 33rd and 34th holes to get into a six-man playoff for four spots. He made pars on the first two holes and earned a place in his first U.S. Open.
“It was extremely nerve wracking,” Weaver said of the playoff. “There were great players in it, a couple of Nationwide players, Fred Funk.... Obviously, when you are in that kind of playoff everybody's playing well. It's just a matter of controlling your nerves and managing your adrenaline. Thankfully, I was able to rely on past experiences.”
At Bethpage on Thursday, the 22-year old Weaver had his parade rained on. The first round of his first U.S. Open came to an abrupt halt when heavy rain brought a suspension in play. He was 2-over par through 10 holes when the horns sounded. Time for more perseverance.
When Weaver returned on Friday morning, he birdied three of his final eight holes and turned in a card of 69, co-leader in the clubhouse, tied with Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland.
“We were talking, and I was 2-over and had a two-footer for par on No. 11 (when play resumed),” Weaver said. “The golf course is very, very demanding. So anything right around par or a couple over is good.
“But Victor [Velasquez, his caddie] really got me in the right frame of mind to go out there and make some birdies. There are birdies out there; you've got to hit really good shots.”
Weaver is finished at Virginia Tech, graduated in May. But before he turns pro, he wants to give something else a good shot – the Walker Cup. Weaver has elected to remain an amateur, plans to play in the U.S. Amateur in the weeks ahead and hopes to make the U.S. squad before it heads to Merion Golf Club on Sept. 11-12.
“That's my sole purpose for this summer,” said Weaver, whose schedule includes a steady diet of amateur events in the weeks ahead. “I played well last week at the Sunnehanna, and obviously qualified here. Today was a good start. I'm looking to use this even as a springboard to make that team.”
The USGA recently adopted changes that automatically qualify an American winner of the British Amateur onto the Walker Cup team. Weaver, of course, mistimed his British Amateur victory by a year. Nonetheless, don't be surprised if the steely Hokie, again, perseveres.
“Being an amateur, I've played in all the majors that I could have,” he said. “That's an unbelievable thing for me. But to cap things off, representing your country, capping off my amateur career in the Walker Cup would be unbelievable. It's every amateur's dream and that's my motivation.
“That's why I worked hard. That's what gets me up in the morning to go work out. That's what keeps me going.”
Nothing seems to stop Drew Weaver.
Phillip Howley is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on www.usopen.com.